Infecting the academy: how reconfigured thought Jes Grew from Ishmael Reed's Mumbo jumbo

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Paul David Piatkowski (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Christian Moraru

Abstract: The world of academic study and university education privileges a so-called "global" process of thinking as universal, but this process actually relies on practices with a European centrality. This thinking process gets taught to individuals and "programs" the manner of thinking for the majority of the world's population, serving a neocolonial purpose in global conversations. After first revealing that Western civilization's institutions of learning propagate a disorienting perspective for other ethno-cultural viewpoints, Ishmael Reed utilizes a discursive process called Jes Grew that parasitically rewrites the institutionalized hegemony of the Western academy and its influence on the arts, thoughts, and actions of other ethno-cultural groups. In his novel Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed uses Jes Grew, a type of infovirus, to recode both the reader of the text and the academy itself through de-centering and deconstructing academic practices and texts of Western civilization, and then reconstructing and rewriting these into a more fluid, unbound academic system not circumscribed within the confines of Eurocentric hegemony. Reed accomplishes this task with the construction and implementation of Jes Grew that he first seeds in the imaginary and then extends out into physical, lived reality. Through a deconstruction of the physical and fictional text and an analysis of Reed's structural approach in Mumbo Jumbo, it becomes clear that his target hosts for Jes Grew infection are academic readers. Reed begins his process by shifting a European paradigm to an African one, and through this process he de-centers the "universal" centrality of Western culture. Reed's Jes Grew rewrites thinking into a system of thought that equally privileges multiple ethno-cultural viewpoints by de-centering and deconstructing the infected reader and re-centering the academic manner of processing information. This process de-privileges a Western manner of thinking and creates, instead, a fluid, unbound method of processing knowledge. Jes Grew reconfigures thinking itself in a manner that decolonizes the global psyche.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
African American Theory, Ethnocentricity, Ishmael Reed, Jes Grew, Mumbo Jumbo, Postmodernism
Ethnocentrism in literature
Reed, Ishmael, $d 1938- $x Criticism and interpretation
American literature $x African American authors $x History and criticism $x Theory, etc.
American literature $y 20th century $x History and criticism

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